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"From this evidence, a jury could reasonably infer that Cox contributed to the lack of a viable market for third-party set-top boxes and that several well-financed consumer electronics companies were poised to enter this market," the complaint claimed. "Thus, the alleged lack of competitors does not excuse Cox’s coercion."
An Oklahoma federal jury has agreed, declaring that Cox violated antitrust laws when it tied premium cable service to set-top rentals. The jury awarded the suing subscribers $6.31 million in damages.
A recent survey by Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal found that set top box competition is virtually nonexistent, with 99% of cable customers renting a cable box. The average household will spend up to $231 per year on set-top rental fees, the study found.
Of course the high cost of programming squeezes the margins on cable TV for cable operators, so they get their pound of flesh in other ways — most notably set top box rental charges and a myriad of sneaky below the line fees.
Ultimately the combination of competition from Internet video, combined with the push toward either open or cloud-driven set tops will likely result in higher broadband prices, as cable operators shift the costs and take advantage of the lack of broadband competition.
The case isn't over quite yet; Cox has submitted a motion for a judgment as a matter of law, something the Judge has yet to rule on.